Christopher Clair, Office of Strategic Communication, 319-384-0900
Bound for La Biennale
Bound for La Biennale
Bound for La Biennale
Jackson Pollock’s Mural, Iowa’s most famous painting and one of the world’s most significant and iconic Modern masterpieces, will soon head to Italy for the prestigious Venice Art Biennale along with nearly two dozen other works of art as part of an exhibition titled “Jackson Pollock’s Mural: Energy Made Visible.”
The exhibition, organized by the University of Iowa Museum of Art, will take up residence April 25 through Nov. 16 at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Approximately half of the art comes from the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA) collection; others come from institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.
“This show offers a completely different take on Jackson Pollock and the art that has its roots in 1940s America, particularly during the war,” says Sean O’Harrow, director of the museum. “The effects this period of Pollock’s life had on the development of art after the war were significant and profound.”
“Jackson Pollock’s Mural: Energy Made Visible” is curated by David Anfam, senior consulting curator at the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver and a preeminent authority on Abstract Expressionism. The focus is on Mural, following its 18-month stay at the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles for conservation and cleaning.
—Sean O’Harrow, director of the UIMA
The immensely dynamic Mural is the largest painting Pollock created and it has exerted a seismic impact on American art down to the present day. Mural established a new sense of scale and audacity for the Abstract Expressionist movement, anticipating the classic ‘poured’ abstractions that Pollock would begin four years later.
Setting Mural into context, the selection includes Pollock’s newly restored Alchemy, as well as works by the artist’s wife, Lee Krasner, David Smith, and Robert Motherwell. Crucially, it also sheds new light on Pollock’s relationship to such photographers of action and energy as Herbert Matter, Barbara Morgan, Aaron Siskind, and Gjon Mili. (An exhibition checklist can be found at the end of this article.)
A fully illustrated book by Anfam, published by Thames & Hudson, accompanies the exhibition.
Running concurrently will be “Charles Pollock: A Retrospective,” curated by Philip Rylands, director of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. The exhibition documents Charles Pollock’s full career, with most of the material (art and documents, some of it never before exhibited) being loaned by the Charles Pollock Archive, Paris, thanks to the Pollock family. Additional loans will come from members of the Pollock family, from the Archives of American Art/Smithsonian Institution, and other institutions and private collections. Early letters, photos, and sketches will document the relations between Charles and Jackson.
Mural will return to its new permanent home when the new University of Iowa Museum of Art is completed. Until then, its overseas journey will serve as another chapter in the painting’s amazing legacy.
The commission of Mural by Peggy Guggenheim. Guggenheim, the leading dealer of Modern art in New York during the 1940s, was eager to present in her home a symbol of support for the new American brand of art she was beginning to champion in her gallery. She commissioned Pollock to create a mural for her new townhouse. Pollock was to choose the subject, and the art’s size would be immense (8’ 1 1/4” x 19’ 10”), meant to cover an entire wall. At the suggestion of Guggenheim’s friend and advisor Marcel Duchamp, it was painted on canvas, not the wall itself, so it would be portable.
Pollock wrote of his commission that it was “…with no strings as to what or how I paint it. I am going to paint it in oil on canvas. They are giving me a show November 16 and I want to have the painting finished for the show. I’ve had to tear out the partition between the front and middle room to get the damned thing up. I have it stretched now. It looks pretty big, but exciting as all hell.”
Guggenheim’s gift of Mural to the UI. When Guggenheim decided to move back to Europe in 1947, she wanted to give the painting to an institution that she felt shared her approach to art and artists. Guggenheim, recognizing the significance of the UI studio art program, wrote to Lester Longman, head of the UI School of Art and Art History, on Oct. 3, 1948, reminding him that she had offered to give Mural to the university if he would pay to have it shipped from Yale.
He responded immediately that indeed he was most interested, and began negotiating with the administration for the cost of freight. Finally, in October 1951, the painting was shipped to Iowa.
The painting’s homes at the UI. Mural was placed in the UI Mural Studio, created by Grant Wood when he created murals for the Works Progress Administration. “It represented in many ways everything that Grant Wood was not, and for Lester Longman it symbolized the new dawn of abstract expressionist art, both in the art program and in America,” says O’Harrow.
For a time it hung in Main Library before taking up residence for nearly four decades in the UI Museum of Art.
Displacement due to flooding. In the summer of 2008, the UI campus experienced its greatest natural disaster in its history: a historic flood of the Iowa River that damaged or destroyed the entire arts campus. The university was able to save Mural—in fact, 99 percent of the value of the UI Museum of Art collection was rescued.
Mural left Iowa for Chicago, eventually returning to the state in 2009 to be displayed at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport (at the time, O’Harrow was executive director of the Figge).
Conservation at the Getty Institute. In 2009, UI officials invited experts from the Getty Conservation Institute and J. Paul Getty Museum to Iowa to assess the condition of the painting. In 2012, Mural went through a two-year technical study and conservation treatment by research scientists in Los Angeles.
The conservation treatment removed a synthetic varnish that had been applied during a treatment in 1973 and addressed the effect that a wax-resin lining had on the current appearance of the painting.
Over 300,000 people visited the painting during its exhibition at the Getty between March and June of 2014, making it one of the most popular shows ever for that institution.
Its return to the state of Iowa. The Sioux City Art Center held a public opening of the Mural exhibition on July 21, 2014, and hosted the painting until this month. Mural headlined the center’s 100th anniversary activities, and center director Al Harris-Fernandez anticipated many people from northwest Iowa and the three nearby bordering states would view this influential exhibit.
“I think this is going to be a banner year for the Sioux City Arts Center,” Harris-Fernandez remarked this past summer.
After its sojourn in Venice during the Biennale, the exhibition is slated to travel to Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom during late 2015 and 2016 before returning to the United States in 2017.
“After touring the world, promoting American culture and the University of Iowa’s artistic legacy, we expect a new museum facility, literally designed around our most famous painting, Mural, and the rest of this fantastic exhibition and collection, to be ready to take it all back,” O’Harrow says. “Pollock’s Great American Masterpiece deserves no less than a full-on, energetic Iowa homecoming.”
“Jackson Pollock’s Mural: Energy Made Visible”
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
April 25 – November 16
1. Jackson Pollock, Untitled Panels A-D, c.1934-38, oil on fiberboard, each panel approximately 7 ¾ x 6 ⅞ inches, courtesy Joan T. Washburn Gallery, New York and The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Inc.
2. Jackson Pollock, Untitled (Page from a Lost Sketchbook), c.1939-42, brush and India ink and colored pencil on paper, 17⅞ x 13⅞ inches, lent by Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Lee Krasner Pollock.
3. David Smith, Untitled (Tanktotems), 1953, 29¼ x 23⅜ inches, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
4. Krasner, Promenade, 1947, oil on board, 30 x 48 inches, loan from a private collection.
5. Jackson Pollock, The Moon Woman, 1942, oil on canvas, 69 x 43 inches, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.
6. Frederick Sommer, Untitled, 1945, glue tempera on canvas, 26 1⁄4 x 30 1⁄4 inches, Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York.
7. Herbert Matter, Calder Hanging Mobile, 1936, 2/6 of the series “Mobile in Motion” Alexander Calder, gelatin silver print, printed 2013 by Palm Press, 21 x 19 inches, 39/50 from an edition of 50 + 10 HC, stamped and numbered by Cahiers d’Art and The Calder Foundation, University of Iowa Museum of Art
8. Herbert Matter, Figure in Motion, c. 1939, vintage gelatin silver print, 6 ½ x 8 ¾ inches, University of Iowa Museum of Art, Mark Ranney Memorial Fund.
9. Barbara Morgan, Charles Weidman Group in “Lynchtown”, 1938, gelatin silver print, printed c. 1980, 15 ¾ x 19 ¾ inches., University of Iowa Museum of Art, Mark Ranney Memorial Fund.
10. Barbara Morgan, Pure Energy and Neurotic Man, 1940, gelatin silver print 13 ½ x 10 ½ inches, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, Mark Ranney Memorial Fund.
11. Aaron Siskind, Martha’s Vineyard (seaweed) 2, 1943, gelatin silver print, printed later, Aaron Siskind Foundation, courtesy Bruce Silverstein Gallery.
12. Gjon Mili, Alfred Hitchcock during the filming of ‘Shadow of a Doubt’, 1943, photograph, printed by Palm Press, 2015 with permission from (Time Life Collection) Getty Images, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, Mark Ranney Memorial Fund.
13. Gjon Mili, Figure Skater Carol Lynne, 1945, printed by Palm Press, 2015 with permission from (Time Life Collection) Getty Images, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, Mark Ranney Memorial Fund.
14. Aaron Siskind, Chicago 8, 1948, gelatin silver print, printed c. 1970, University of Iowa Museum of Art, Mark Ranney Memorial Fund.
15. Jackson Pollock, Mural, 1943, oil and casein on canvas, 95¾ x 237½ inches, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, Gift of Peggy Guggenheim.
16. Jackson Pollock, Eyes in the Heat, 1946, 54 x 43 inches, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.
17. Jackson Pollock, Croaking Movement, 1946, oil on canvas, 54 x 44 inches, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.
18. Jackson Pollock, Alchemy, 1947, oil on canvas, 45 ⅛ x 87 ⅛ inches, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.
19. David Smith, Tanktotem III, 1953, 84 ½ x 27 x 20 inches, steel, David and Audrey Mirvish, Toronto.
20. Jackson Pollock, Enchanted Forest, 1947, 87 ⅛ x 45 ⅛ inches, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.
21. Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 126, 1965-75, Acrylic on canvas, 77 ¾ x 200 ¼ inches, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, purchased with the aid of funds from The National Endowment for the Arts with matching funds and partial gift of Robert Motherwell.